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and District Local History Society
and vagrants - or as some of them
to call themselves, Knights of the Road a common on the roads of Ireland 100 sight years ago. Then, for those who fell upon hard times, there was no unemployment benefit or social securi for whatever reason, took to the roads ty and many, on the way. town to from town begging walking The Poor how, of report Law Reform, if at all, the Vice-Regal 1906' set out could, Commission '.. without on liked - were taken place, had changes years many significant of the country had that the population most notably, and in 1841 halved been -8,175.000 virtually of in 1901 and, as a result, the numbers 4,458,000 destitute had also fallen as well.
The 1833 Royal Commission had estimated the
number 'being in great to be about that need of food* The to be 2,385,000 1906 Commission 'shocking levels
while in 1906 the number relying on Poor Relief was
reckoned concluded 30,000. in comparison to the
to ascertain, impairing into the
a reduction some
efficiency, bemade in the expenditurefor the relief of
the poor,* and gives interesting insights at the begin various classes of destitution prevalent ning of the 20th Century. The Report prevailing conditions compares in the 1830's when in 1906 with a previous of
of destitution* which existed before the Famine the 1906 figure was 'proportionately insignificant* for
while almost as a whole had been reduced by the population now amounted destitute the of numbers 50%, because and figure. This was, of a combination emigration to a much the Commission of famine, extent than dis
to 1% of the former those 'Royal concluded, ease, the poorest population
all of which greater
(1833) had reported on the problem of
During that period seventy
as a whole.
regularity ** soft lest be However. be taken in should.. "a person who to Union Union. The commissioners Labour Houses' While tively social a rela of these tramps stayed within many small area. were of Four-fifths of these were males. however. but and surroundings. or the police. robbers or swindlers. classified 2. They go in the country districts a night's shelter when to a the or even similar of 1833 had made The Royal Commission those that also had and recommendations proposed "as free be sent should suitable deemed vagrants labourers to non-penal colonies. generally they journey known as 'tramps* or 'night lodgers." a Commission. and vate charity turn thieves." say that the poor householder of Ireland is reluctant to refuse wayfarer appeal There when is made asked for charity. .sleep the open when in out-houses. into a capacity for educated leading a use possible. be a vagrant he would be sent to serve a period from one to three years in a Labour House* where would sporting in large admissions events these to Workhouses taking place were times. ". foot. were report made recommendations which... often young were lazy ne'er-do-wells. Many them. and The Commissioners recommended that musicians . harmless and colourful often genuinely of the roads poor old men or women were the Commissioners less sympathetic. or dependent identified upon as vagrants or Poor Relief. increased significantly and acquire the "habits of sobriety. mem bers obviously took their work and their seriously no doubt. frequently (Poor Law) a a in bed for the night and a workhouse. in favour his journey. of the 30. basically ally a defined circuit in and well known clearly respected but and able-bodied or area. two very distinct types of obviously one The the country. or meal a vagrant as. events numbers. thought they might on to say: "As regards the Labour hearted. were universally detested and often feared. wise treatment. Like many before and since. '* on to is fine. These two. describes nity. If a person lines to of he of these many grandparents bered as benign. others travelled widely and public events such as fairs and markets. firm. gerous particularly dishonest and to the vulnerable dan potentially commu in the  for peri Houses sending people to Labour for to three years wandering ods of one simply close to was seen as getting the countryside around an infringement of civil liberties. bad habits a tendency to divert men and own their subsistence earning by honest upon pri they readily become dependent have or upon public rates. horse racing. enough of simple food.* While in the memories of some of our parents and are remem 'wanderers' characters - of depriving this class of their liberty to march the country terrorising women while men are in the fields. industry. read with interest and largely ignored. everything buildings. fittings of the plainest." these recommended on the same the setting up of as those appar at the period. of all) and other vicious or mental to do a satisfactory inability day's work. tramps. A para of the Class' states 'Characteristics 'All graph entitled old countries do-wells diate have a considerable their among causes are drunkenness these (most of failures idleness or physical habits. being gener tramps roaming and unfortunate infirm old and decent. roughest kind. They were and humane. and collecting food and money to enable them to shirk work and escape any regular exertion for self-support. The chief imme These women from labour. the weather in hay-barns. and other The attracted gatherings Commissioners noted in towns where them that such at in Belgium ently current was found by the Courts of Justice. tramps. they went we should Houses be sorry to see in them anything than can be derived from suggestive of more comfort clean healthy very hard work.. However travelling be exempted should ballad-singers to 'Labour Houses' and that those who were confined children and be. The other.Poyntzpass and District Local History Society The Report wanders from obtaining. Of this latter type the Commissioner states "All the evidence Witnesses. especially "For the love of God*'.* unless indeed they percentage ofne*er inhabitants." to the Commissioners. the suggest punishment for vagrant for his culpable restraint and but education for his own good conduct. "We would enlightened not. around we received without is most hostile were to almost exception. before resuming on as are wanderers.000. if like hand ".000 According as being in need of. It is obvious wanderers who need that are homeless vagrants kind.
. According to a report in the 'The Frontier Sentinel' of December. what was described in the same paper in 1906. We also learn that on bicycles. then infesting the area. Armagh. ful independent life. 1904.. Monaghan the unwanted title of 'the Capital enjoyed of Irish the that learn report we a to employ had decided Guardians of Clones Union to prosecute the legions to gather evidence detective of tramps.Poyntzpass and District Local History Society T J?> JL ytmaiAmi/ 0*NniiAKD WEST ^J |I EAST TfNAH 1 /-^ MAKKltKILL* 1 I J ^k ^V \-y^ / NEWTOWN-1MOLLAQHQLASS \ UPPER ( OR?Mt \ 7?)e Relief Committees inCo. No person has the right to idle and live upon the public. as 'a tramp [58 1 . Co. some tramps actually around travelled Casualdom.' In the was another Enniskillen town to suffer from.** remain Some towns seemed to suffer periodic 'invasions' of tramps. Clones.
through hating despised by own A and with everyone angry my plight. "We*re sick o* look who the fat tubs of women. Torley (laughter) "The Chairman said that he was afraid Mr.Poyntzpass and District Local History Society of the Enniskillen Union it was plague.I tramped the country.* MacGill me An Amusing Application John appeared Torley. comfort other milk plunder a cow always against my will that the Board. coupled with their one favour." sight or we*ll tell the policeman mocked In another of his books 'Moleskin Joe. more seven. wanted. The Chairman . or during times of very bad weather or commit Joe would Moleskin break a shop window to some other very obvious crime and allow himself In winter be sent to prison for a period until times got better. and would do him that great benevolence. free will of my a were I bad and couldn *tget when times of mouthful but it was outside.that the Honourable est sublimity mem -(laughter) bers of the Board in their sagacity. own to prison I went and church. Murtagh settle it. Mr. He wrote.(laughter) compensation . a general of 'tramps' were simply colourful characters heading . tramps obviously unattractive with the intention of making the area as as possible tramps to tramps. passed severe sen appeared before them. I went to Patrick According always on the 'look-out* any would hen! to help.or even a in the field. surrounding certainly not funny at the time. ing at the likes o* you!" our out o* 'Get stood at their cottage doors. -A pair of boots? and assist. about you. Bravo.or to have considerable at and appeared education as this report from least an impressive vocabulary Some those who would come under 'The Newry Reporter* of January. Something Torley and otherwise sustain my feet weather (laughter). details I was or less. I'm 40 years of er. and I was bred in a workhouse. and the Board for tramps to do to earn their to acquire 10 tons of resolved to Drummee for the tramps Quarry no work P. said. Toman. which as they all knew. food ** to church. all men. He hoped with great MacGill. of potato to migration gatherers he lost his earnings through play to return home penniless ashamed tences when ging.Please. in this amphibious The Chairman . aid. the tution (loud laughter). two months was a regular of in Armagh Jail with hard labour sentence. Vve been in a workhouse.* At a meeting stated that providing for supper. gives as I've told you was Joe told.What do you want? take apples for opportunities He come his way. over to the Clerk. to maintain the reputation of that co-habitable insti theNewry Harriers (laughter).Long or short ones? Mr Toman . with the request that he the required articles for the appli purchase Patrick MacGill the author of several books includ ing 'Childrenof the Dead End' left his native Donegal with the annual When Scotland." brought round the "hat" with the result the money of 17s 6p was subscribed.to in the pursuit him of his avocations comfort in his representative the ancient among aristocracy capacity. Mr. 0*Hare .A pair of hunting ones. few gave me food. For beg today may them were seem the events that a sum handed should cant. 1903 shows : ing cards he was and so took to tramping. some boots. a bed and breakfast a tramp cost the Board of Guardians 2!/4(L At that time there was keep stones break. the "hat" and that they from Mr. better known as "Jack the Hunt** He of a tramp he became friendly with. applied for pair of to get a pair of "relievers**. might . and I started work when age. ". There are accounts courts being convened to of special many area in deal with the and the local justices. some cursed me from their doors and a great number as I passed. and in his own style before a He he said. was associated with . Cardwell that will and other local papers regu Reporter* of tramps in the the activities larly reported area of and while the many reports read Poyntzpass 'The Newry amusing. could not legally entertain Send round the application. prison reformatory. "My name's Moleskin or moth seen I mind havin' don't my father already. steal eggs or any other crop or fruit the sea which tramp was for food or son provided. Torley  .
" At and her the called tramp serious case When their pensions were due they discharged them selves and having That spent their money of their quickly.  . householder. no home and ragged clothes where did he begin? One class of people much inclined to becoming Poyntzpass Petty a such was ex-soldiers and Kilkenny Union tramps were noted by the Commissioners of 1906 to have more as almost than 20 ex-soldiers permanent lodgers.that none was upkeep regarded needs alteration" pension as a state lenient in all the cases where there were Occasionally reported. when a person took old and particularly the old who places. had to be readmitted on the grounds of 'destitution. hard case was was Finnegan labour strangely adjourned sentenced to to on drink.Poyntzpass and District Local History Society As Patrick MacGill discovered. At Thomas Sessions in one lived in isolated to 'tramping' itwas extremely difficult to get 'off the road' and back into normal society. crippled woman. With no money. have happier memories familiar around with of the beggars they were in the years in the Lissummon the time of the Great War. of Aughantaraghan night of broke into Ann 1910. Finnegan appeared a brutal attack on an old woman named involving .' towards affairs their ". nine months circumstances. Finnegan Sunday 23rd January McCourt's home and on the Old Road left her weak The to vile abuse.. not satisfied with what they could steal on to them at the the sly or with what alms was given door would force an entrance and attack and rob a Misses Minnie and Sarah Savage area of Laurelhill. tramps.** Assizes where Armagh old. "subjected and helpless. Most at risk of such attacks were the Z. mostly went of Court Ann McCourt was described as being "a frail. On the Ann McCourt.o(/re/Ay///Ayot/5e.
Poyntzpass and District Local History Society "Beggars. He was a very one at time. After she had his daughter so much it annoys and father*s dead woman leap off the road and hit the tin with the soldering iron and bellowed. but as we knew them long ago." "Nailey Nailey don*t gave shout one her in front of the kitchen stove. One man would a smell of tea?" of the names the of they collected tin boxes ask for a "Could you "Some were Shoot. "When I was Anne Minnie one winter's running road. tin cans and buckets that a small repeating Another along." when remembers evening Maggie to our kitchen door came McGailey "Mrs Savage. tier house or shack carried little linen bags into which wheaten grain spare or oat meal and had wee of tea or sugar. but mother that it was nodded innate for me honesty to accept and independ it old country people who had worked hard all their they It was hard away for old age. a house and a had. children were of him. put any money to earn what enough kept body and soul together. afraid kept until Nailey's occasion next visit. He had a service to offer mending These were to the men in the yard and she found it was Mary had developed holes (nothing was thrown away in those days). calling on and appeared the same houses about three times a year. three years old "Nailey Rice was carried solder and lean old man who really a tinker by trade and stilly a soldering iron. "What would he do if there was the First World War 'Pheasant' During was used. women who wore lady. Kelly was My sister Sara way where from Whitecross she had a shack. They often occasionally. "Mem. Father left her home in the horse trap." to take the "We rounds old people who came on their had a little cot They probably but no help to sustain somewhere them. Kelly. raised to 5/= (25p) per week. asked for some Brand margarine Nailey was two slices of bread and given thing to eat and thunder?" he said margarine. that*s old cart grease" and sipped a little warm milk she was able to sit to the table and eat a meal.' with a penny. The latter was noted 'The Lord's Prayer' as was he travelled old Maggie Anne McGailey. one woman told an old uncle of ours that she could live well on the half crown "mate and she wondered other was crater's out of some remember it right mouth. stove Before Mother wanted till morning but she said me she left she presented her to sit by the she 'must push on. This was those old people. shouting come quick! There is a woman Mother she reached called the woman lying dead down the wife. They would have travelled quite a long way. On one a house where there was came out Nailey was at a feeble-minded old man. I remember wondering if I should accept it from one [61 ] . said head. so he helped coming our men. The was to people granted a tremendous boon to the amount was days never because wages were knowing ence which thought and Mary prompted the gift. threw it away. " I had hidden myself up the hall as the talk of a was too much for me. Sam Woods of Ballinaleck happened to be from Newry in a horse and cart. came Old age pensions in about 1909 at half-a crown over pension 70 years of age. could so poor. although itwas said she had left him. off the byre door to use as a They hooked stretcher to carry Mary up to the house and they laid Nailey had a loud voice and shouted a lot. to have some sort of circuit. Indeed later when a week. Mary Kelly a black cape. were so low decent.' and Daniel Murnaghan.' Margaret.' for 'Jack the beggars we remember 'Red 'Susie The Flute.
She always was of fleas coming off of loaf but This woman lost both arms There wasn't any law of compen beetling mill.' who was from for a grain of meal. and the tramp nearly faint visitors scullery as the mistress the tramp. " Mother mother's flax told me home. then meal she would say.' Mountnorris. A friend of mine once told me the following: An old tramp who did his rounds twice or three Tommy McGailey. what happened the auld hen?" C62J . tramps asking This could have been oaten or yellow maize meal. or bread stand and look around the countryside talking to himself. "You are getting or tramp's porridge. The tramp was given a butter box to sit on in the gave him a round tered and a mug of tea.Poyntzpass and District Local History Society a big old woman and a lady called 'TheGreen Shawl Woman. "'Jack the Flute' was known to run a piece. laid by her eaten and put on the new garment. plump and comfortable looking) whether is not known but by charm or natural procedure when animals were ill she was sent for. and took her in and washed have a new chemise (vest) made from flower bags. into the bag. The only things she feared were dogs. Also 'Praying Biddy. in those days. He waited until she had gone "up the house" " then he called the servant girl over and said / say Kate. My grandmother sation always had for this old woman. Somebody listened to him behind a ditch and he was saying 'Soncy 'The Lord's Mary' Murnaghan. She would haws from the hedge as she went along being able to pull them off with her mouth. afraid farmhouse. about a woman had who called at her in a times a year came to a certain pretty thrifty. The mis tress was counted or "near" of herself. like Daniel Prayer' in cures dealt (Soncy means big. On this occasion she had had the night before. Other beggars were 'Red Margaret' ed when he found a leg of chicken on his round of loaf. All went our own Sometimes when "I mentioned supply of oat meal ran done and Mother added a lit tle yellow a penny sugar." When they asked for help maybe was enough to satisfy them.
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